At some point, we've all been on job interviews. Many of us have been on more than one. Yet they're still a source of fear for most people -- despite the fact that they're reasonably predictable.
A staffing agency is a good place to get the kind of advice you need to get a good job, like where to begin your search and how to write your resume. But once you enter the office with the interviewer, you're on your own, without a friendly staffing agency rep to help you.
But preparation is the best defense. Here are five questions you're likely to run into at your next interview.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What They're Looking For: For the most part, interviewers understand ambition. They know that someone interviewing for an entry-level job doesn't want to stay in that position forever. But they also want some assurance that you're not going to leave the job the moment another offer comes along. They're also looking for stability; a good answer to this question will assure the interviewer that, though your ambition makes you want to climb the ladder as quickly as you can, you're planning on sticking with this job for the long haul.
What They're Not Looking For: Aimlessness. Don't give a vague answer, or one that implies you won't be loyal to the company. It might also be a bad idea to tell the interviewer that you're angling for his job, though a comment of this nature might serve to break the ice if made with judicious humor.
What are some of the challenges facing our industry?
What They're Looking For: This question is an interviewer's primary tool for making sure you know your stuff, so make sure you've done your homework. If you've been working in your industry a while, it shouldn't be hard to answer this question, but try to go a step further by relating a personal story about how you dealt innovatively with a challenge that's common to the industry.
What They're Not Looking For: Cluelessness. Even if you're new to the industry, do some research so you can speak at least somewhat intelligently. If you are new, your resume will reflect that, and the interviewer probably won't expect you to be a genius. But you should still have a good answer prepared.
Describe a difficult work-related problem you faced, and how you solved it.
What They're Looking For: Your interviewer doesn't just want to know how you approach problems in your work -- he wants to make sure you can even recognize problems when they arise. Some variation on this question crops up in nearly every interview, so search your memory banks for some major or minor victory you had at the office.
What They're Not Looking For: You know the old saying about how if you can't spot the rube in a poker game, it's probably you? It holds true here as well. Any interviewee who's never had a problem at the office was probably the problem themselves. Be cheerful and upbeat, but don't be someone who never addresses challenges.
Have you ever had a conflict with a supervisor? If so, how did you resolve it?
What They're Looking For: Inter-office conflicts happen all the time, from the highest echelons of power to the most common staffing agency jobs. Interviewers know this -- and they want to see how positively and constructively you approach those conflicts. Be sure to come to your interview armed with a story about how you and your supervisor worked together to solve a problem.
What They're Not Looking For: Don't try to convince your interviewer that every relationship you've had with every supervisor has been a conflict-free model of human interaction. People come into conflict all the time -- it's how we handle that conflict that shows who we are.
Is there anything else you feel I should know about you?
What They're Looking For: Interviewers usually wrap up the interview with this question. You might use it as an opportunity to recap your strengths and talents, or cover some ground that the interviewer failed to cover. If you came prepared with a winning answer to a question the interviewer never wound up asking, this might be your chance to retool it slightly and make a winning pitch.
What They're Not Looking For: The word "no." Think about it: Are you really so boring that the entirety of your life can be capture in a twenty-minute interview?